October 05, 2012

The Aerovons - Song for Jane (1969)

Here we are. The final installment of the week long special, featuring stories from Tom Hartman of The Aerovons. In case you've missed it, Tom has been kind enough to share stories with us about when his band was fortunate enough to meet The Who, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and John Lennon! You can find all of the stories, as well as previous stories submitted by '60s musicians, on our Exclusive Stories page.

The song found below Tom's story comes from the B-Side of The Aerovons' single released in 1969. It's A-Side, "The Train," can be heard here. The song was also released on the group's album, Resurrection, recorded in 1969 and released in 2003.

A Special Edition post with Tom Hartman from The Aerovons!
Part 5 of 5

As mentioned yesterday, this story is the fourth story to occur when speaking chronologically. Yesterday's story involving John Lennon was the last story to take place, but this story was chosen to be shared last because, in my opinion, it's the best story. So for one final time, here's Tom:
The Boys

In 1968, at some point after we had our momentous meetings with Paul at Speakeasy Club and then George at EMI Studios, we all packed up and went back to the States. The commitment by EMI was to do a record, but they wanted us to go back home and spend the winter writing music. They would have us come back after the first of the year to begin recording what we came up with.

Well, after a few months (I believe it was in August), they asked my mother (who, again, handled the business) and myself to return to England to sign contracts and button up some details. Looking back, I have no idea why this couldn't have been handled by mail, but for whatever reason, I was off to London again.

This time, it wasn't quite as fun as having your group with you. Mom and I stayed in a hotel and, for the most part, I don't remember much about how I spent the approximate one week we were there. It was probably fairly mundane. It was also, as it turned out, the calm before the storm.

I went to the EMI offices in town with my mom as she conducted the business dealings and, finally during one of those meetings, one of the EMI officials asked, “Would you like to go over to the studios before you leave this week and watch a recording session?” Of course, I said yes and the man began to consult a log of what was coming up that week. He mentioned a few artists whom I had never heard of, a soloist named Frank something, and then said, “Oh, there is a Hollies session, as well.” As a huge fan of The Hollies, I immediately told him I would love to see that and he gave me the time (I believe it was late afternoon) to show up at the studios. How cool was this?

The day came and I took a cab to the studios, walked up the steps, and again found myself in front of the guard at the front desk. “Oh, yes, Tom. The session is right there through that door,” as he motioned toward a door to my left which was Studio 3, the smallest of the studios at EMI, but also the one used to record many hits, including Beatles tracks. I thanked him and slowly opened the heavy door and peeked in. A gentleman sat at a mixing console and looked up.

“Hi, I'm Tom Hartman. I was told by EMI-”

“Oh! Yes, sure, come on in. Expecting you!” said the man.

The man turned out to be The Hollies’ producer, Ron Richards, and he immediately put me at ease. “You can just sit on the couch, there,” he said, and, upon doing so, I could see through the glass into the studio where none other than The Hollies were at the microphone. The band was speaking to Ron and he answered them back, “Let's try it again.” Suddenly, music began to play back and I heard their unmistakable voices coming through the monitors. Quite an amazing feeling! There they were, in all their splendid harmonic glory, singing a song called “Man with No Expression,” which I had, of course, never heard. After a few bars, Ron stopped the tape and said, “Can you guys come in here and do that?”

The control room door soon opened and in they came. I recognized them immediately. Ron made a brief introduction and then addressed them again, “Just sing what you are singing out there,” he said.
After one of them counted off, they stood not three feet from me and all began singing, “He's a man // I know // with no expression, no // no, not at all.”

Well, you can imagine. Hearing them sing this closely in that wonderful harmony- it was mesmerizing. They decided to take a break and Graham Nash picked up an acoustic guitar and strummed a bit. “Do you play?” he asked me.

“Yes,” I said, at which point he handed me the acoustic. “Tell me what you think of this. It's new.”

I politely strummed a few chords, and then Graham took the guitar back. “No, no, you have to bang these things! Like this!” whereupon he started playing it very loudly and they all started laughing. Tony Hicks, their lead guitarist, kind of gave me a smile as if to say, “Hey, it's okay. We're not making fun of you.” He was really a great guy.

I watched them for a little while longer, and then left the control room momentarily to call back to the hotel and let my mom know how great it was all going. When I got off the phone, I walked back to the studio, opened the door, and no one was there! I stood there for a second deciding what to do when, all of a sudden, I heard Tony Hicks' voice.

“Are you going 'round to the pub then?” He was walking toward me from the hallway. “We're taking a break. You want to come to the pub?”

Of course I said “Yes,” and next thing I know I was following him out the front door, down the steps, and into his small two-seater sports car (maybe a mini Cooper?). So now I’m driving with one of The Hollies! Things just keep getting stranger.

We drove a few blocks away to a small pub, went in, and I sat at a table with the entire group. They ordered a Vodka and Lime and I said “The same for me,” not having any idea what that was (turned out to be what we call a Vodka Sour and was pretty darned good!). They asked me about my group, I told them, and they gave me some recording tips. They also suggested that we be sure to be well rehearsed so we could get a lot done. It was a really relaxed and easy-going time at the table with a group I had many records by; and, for once, I felt like all the hard work for years in St Louis, all the little dances we played way out in the sticks, all of it had been worth it.

Soon we were back in Tony's car and driving into the EMI Studio lot, whereupon about six or seven kids ran in when the gate opened and surrounded the car, holding out pens and paper for autographs. Tony dutifully signed and one kid even handed me one. “Oh no,” I said, “I'm not one of the Hollies, but thank you.” We walked back up the steps and, as we did, I said “Wow that must be neat all the time!” Tony said, “It's okay, but, you know, sometimes you do get a bit tired of it,” and laughed.

As we walked in, I told him I noticed the amps they used (I had seen them through the control room window) were unusual Vox models. Tony told me, “Yeah, they made those for us. Would you like to see them?” He had me follow him into the studio, allowed me to pick up his guitar, and turned his amp on. I strummed a few chords and then teased him by playing a little of the intro to their hit “Bus Stop.” He smiled and said, “No, like this,” and moved one of my fingers to the correct position. “Ah,” I said, “I knew I was playing that wrong!”

I then started strumming some more chords, followed by playing the opening riff to “On a Carousel,” another one of their hits. All of a sudden, I heard drums and bass kick in. The other members of the group had joined in!

I was now jamming with The Hollies!

Tony noticed I played a G chord in a unique way and said, “That's neat. I never saw that position,” and I showed him why I liked it.

What an amazing day! It simply could not get any better. Or could it?

After a few more minutes, the guys said they had to get back to work and I thanked them all profusely. I could have stayed longer, but went back in the control room and thanked Ron Richards again, told him the studio was really cool, and that everyone had been great. I didn't want to wear out my welcome.

“Thank you, Tom, for coming. Yeah, we like this studio. This is where “Window” was done you know!” (Meaning their early hit, “Look Through Any Window”). I said goodbye and went back out to the front desk. I was just beaming and was about to go use a phone on a nearby desk to call a taxi for the ride back to the hotel, but was feeling chatty and decided to speak with the guard.

“Great studio. And The Hollies were really nice. Anything else going on here this evening?”

The guard looked up, smiled, and softly said, “Well, you know, the boys are back there tonight.”

“The boys?”

“The Beatles,” he answered.

The Beatles had been recording there for so long that the older staff referred to them as “the boys.” Well, guess whose heart was now racing in overdrive. I decided to play it cool.

“Do you mind if I go down to the canteen before I leave?” I asked.

“No, sure. Go right on,” he said, apparently unable to put two and two together.

I walked down the long hallway and, as I got about halfway down, I saw the control room door to Studio 2 propped halfway open. I could hear music coming out, but had to wait until I walked nearer to hear what it was. When I got closer, I heard what was clearly John Lennon singing “Sexy Sadie // Oh, you'll get yours yet // Sexy Sadie,” and then the tape would stop. I heard it rewind, then the same part play again. In between plays, I could hear a bass guitar doodling about. I continued walking and got to some familiar steps. The same ones I had gone down during our studio tour when we met George. I took them down. After all, they were in the direction of the canteen. When I got to the bottom, though, instead of turning to the canteen, I went the other way...to the entrance to Studio 2, whose doors were open. I carefully peeked beyond the door.

There, about twenty-five feet into the studio stood Paul with his foot on a stool, holding his bass, while John stood next to him. I had apparently been hearing Paul overdubbing a bass part onto this “Sexy Sadie” thing I was hearing upstairs! I quickly backed off, so as not to be seen, and eventually did end up in the canteen. After a bit, I made my way back upstairs and went to the front to call the taxi, excited, to say the least about my day. Now, it certainly couldn't get much better! Could it?

I called for the taxi and meandered around the front desk and lobby area. As far as I can recall, the guard had seemingly left momentarily. So I decided to take one last trip down the hall while waiting for the cab. I began the walk and, as I did so, I heard some very loud music coming from somewhere down the hall. I kept walking forward and could plainly hear it as a simple blues jam by someone. It became louder and louder as I walked down the corridor and passed the still partially propped open door to Studio 2's control room. Just as I passed the door, the thunderous blues jam was all encompassing, and I looked suddenly to my right. Through a glass window, all four Beatles were crammed into a tiny room, playing the song I would later know as “Yer Blues.”

I was frozen.

This window looking into the room was no more than a couple of feet from me. The room was the size of small kids’ bedroom and The Beatles were just on the other side of the glass. I was probably within six feet of them. The Ed Sullivan Show, A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, seeing them at Busch Stadium live (the size of ants), and now six feet from me. Fortunately, they weren't looking. Ringo's eyes were closed as he played; Paul was on the left, looking at John on the right; and George was standing dead center looking down at his guitar. What do I do? Stand there until I'm noticed? I couldn't decide whether to be cool and just keep walking or remain where I was. In this case, he who hesitates won. I remained. They played for about another minute before ending the song. I heard a voice from the control room say something, and John said, “That's okay, as long as you got the voice,” at which point all of them started laughing.

I quickly started walking again, escaping totally unnoticed! A free Beatles concert for heaven's sake! I eventually made my way back to the lobby, where the taxi driver soon walked in and asked if someone had called a cab.

“That's me,” I said, and followed the driver out the door and into the magical, unforgettable, evening.

There would be a long winter of writing our album and a wonderful spring of recording it back at EMI again in 1969. Then, decades later, it would finally be released and I would make new friends from all over the world, sharing these amazing stories with them, as well as my early musical efforts. But surely these days in London, for me as young boy, will forever remain as remarkably unique; and, hopefully in sharing them, they’ll serve as an inspiration to others who hold dreams of their own.

Tom Hartman
A monumental 'thank you' is given to Tom for taking the large amount of time necessary to write all of these stories for us. Not only was Tom gracious for sharing his memories with us, but he was also incredibly thoughtful to share them with such intricate detail, really helping to make the stories come alive. Tom most definitely has our sincerest gratitude.
These days, Tom is a music producer for hiring, doing television spots and the like. Because of his work schedule, he hasn't been able to find the time to create an album, but he has been working on a few new tracks for the past couple of years, as time permits. There should be five songs available in the first quarter of 2013, highlighted by the track "Swinging London," dealing with his time as a youth in London in the '60s. "Swinging London" may just make an appearance on A Bit Like You And Me after its release, so stay tuned!

If you'd like to visit The Aerovons' website, you can find it here.

And now that you've enjoyed this exclusive story, why not check out what other exclusive stories we've received?

album art

The Aerovons - Song for Jane (1969)

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Look at Jane in the window
Looking out at nothing new
Is it that she’s growing older?
And run out of things to do?

Living in a dream, her life is fading
She’s still living in the past
Wonder why she’s growing older
All the same, but she has changed

Song for Jane makes her happy
Song for Jane makes her sad
Her world seemed so much brighter
Every time we sing a song

Is it that she’s growing older?
It’s all the same, but she has changed
Living in a dream, her life is fading
She’s still living in the past
Wonder why she’s growing older
And her youth is gone, at last

Song for Jane makes her happy
Song for Jane makes her sad
Though her world seemed so much brighter
Every time we sing a song

Every time we sing a song

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